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Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 15

There’s just no other way to put it. Heinlein is a show-off.

It was about a 600-mile flight north from Culver City to Mount Shasta. Inasmuch as this was my first flight since I had returned to earth, I was happy simply to look down at the California scenery, past the Grapevine, over Pea Soup Anderson’s, past farmland and rolling hills, around Sacramento, until, from about 100 miles away, Mount Shasta came into view.

I was flying pretty much level and steady. Meanwhile, Heinlein was doing aerobatics: barrel rolls, eight-point rolls, the back stroke, full loops, and just for variety, an occasional quadruple gainer with two-and-a-half twists. I felt like shouting at him, “Orange wings! Be careful or the flightmaster will ground you!” but wasn’t sure how well he’d remember his own stories and whether he’d get the inside joke. We made good time anyway, and the flight was less than an hour.

In case you were about to cluck your tongue about our drinking and flying, keep in mind that our resurrected bodies could handle drinking Love Canal without being affected.

Weather on the summit was mild for Mount Shasta when we dropped in for our landing. The Great Assembly Hall, like Mount Shasta itself, was built like a pyramid, but was a layer off dimension so it wouldn’t be perceptible to mortals. Heinlein and I walked inside.

The Central Committee of the Party of God has no decision-making authority of its own. It exists as an advisory body, a cabinet, for God’s designated hitter. There were no permanent seats on it; it was more or less like a minyan in Jewish law or a jury pool in American courts. Whoever qualified that was around when the Coordinator needed help was pulled in for service.

The qualifications for the jury pool were particularly lofty, and a bunch of really accomplished people had volunteered to trap themselves on earth to help me prepare for the election until the gates reopened. Angels were not permitted to serve on the committee, not even angels who had incarnated as human. Eligibility required being a resurrected native-born earthling.

Since this was the first time I was being presented to them, they made it into a show. Aside from Heinlein and myself there were fifteen delegates in attendance, queued up in a reception line. But the fifteen standing before me represented not only their most recent incarnations, but also some of the most memorable personages in human history.

They all applauded as I entered, then Heinlein guided me down the line, making formal introductions. I took the opportunity to exchange a few personal words with each one who seemed amenable to it.

“Saul Ben-Samuel Pepperman,” he said, using my real first name and my father’s, “may I present to you the Chairman Pro Tem, Thomas Jefferson née King Solomon …”

“The Declaration of Independence is the single best piece of writing in human history, sir,” I told him.

“Henry Louis Mencken née Benjamin Franklin.”

“Mr. Franklin, I agree about not deserving liberty, but how do we make men brave?”

“Goldie Mabovitch née Elizabeth Regina.”

“Mrs. Meir, my grandmother once told me you gave a speech in her living room.”

“William Claude Dukenfield née Aristophanes.”

“This sure beats Philadelphia, doesn’t it?”

“Sheikh Mushariff-Ud-Din Sa’di.”

Khosh amadid.

“Alissa Rosenbaum née Aristotle.”

“The way I would phrase that, Miss Rand, is ‘either-ornery.’”

“Clive Staples Lewis née Durante Alighieri.”

“So on November 22nd, 1963, you, Jack Kennedy, and Aldous Huxley all met just outside the tunnel and decided to go pub hopping together?”

“George Bernard Shaw.”

“How are you handling immortality?”

“Raymond William Stacy Burr née Aaron Burr.”

“Nice shot,” I said.

“Samuel Langhorne Clemens.”

“Did you ever find out what happened to your friend Mr. Bierce?”

“Martin Luther King, Jr., née Martin Luther.”

“You just took that reincarnation because you wanted to keep your old name?”

“Norma Jean Baker née Cleopatra.”

“You know, you remind me so much of a close friend of mine named Estella.”

“George Smith Patton, Jr., née Alexander the Great.”

“I would have gone on to finish off Stalin, too.”

“Charles Augustus Lindbergh née Meriwether Lewis née Marco Polo.”

“The violin originated not in Italy but in China?”

“Ludwig von Mises née Adam Smith.”

“So you’ve completed the first draft of Deistic Action?”

After introductions, we removed into the conference room, seating ourselves at a round table of the same sort I’d encountered at breakfast with God: floating midair with self-positioning chairs. But this table was a lot bigger.

President Jefferson as Chairman Pro Tem gaveled the meeting to order, welcomed me again, then turned the meeting over to me.

“Thank you, Mr. President,” I said. “This is new to me. Do you mind acting as parliamentarian for me? Advise me regarding rules of order?”

“That will be easy, sir,” Jefferson said. “This is your meeting. Each of us will speak only when you ask for one of us to do so.”

“There is no set agenda? No old business?”


Okay. Try to put yourself in my place for a second. You’re in a room with sixteen of the most brilliant, most famous, most accomplished human beings of your race, people who are human history, and the one whom the rest of them have decided is perhaps the smartest and most accomplished of the lot has just told you they’re waiting to find out what you want to do.

How did I get picked for this job? I wondered. Just because God gave me a long swim in his gene pool, did that make me qualified even to sit among these giants, much less lead them?

I looked over to Jefferson again and saw him smiling. I knew that he had been exactly where I was sitting and knew exactly how I felt.

I had to start somewhere and picked one almost at random.

“General Patton, I was under the impression that we faced a political engagement with the opposition, not a military one. Are you here to advise me in your professional capacity as a military man, or elsewise?”

“I’m here in case the enemy acts true to form,” Patton said. “They don’t play by the rules. You have to watch them like a hawk. You can’t assume anything. You have to figure out where they’re going and be there waiting for them.”

“Do you expect we’ll have to meet them in battle?”

“For once someone is asking my opinion before it’s too late,” Patton said. “We can’t win this war by attacking the enemy through force.”

“If you don’t think so, general, I have no doubt it’s true.”

He nodded and went on. “But they might contemplate using force against our positions to disrupt our operations. With proper preparations, we can foreclose the force option to the enemy before they can use it.”

“You’ve foreseen such preparations? You have the logistical resources to carry them out?”

“I have, sir.”

I spoke to the assembled others. “Is there anyone here who thinks they have a better take on the military sciences than General Patton?”

No one spoke up.

“Okay, then. General, please make a short, plain-English executive summary of what security precautions you have in mind available to me at your earliest convenience. I’ll review it and if it meets with my approval, I’ll give you the command authority to carry it out.”

“Yes, sir. You’ll have it on your desktop within twenty-four hours.”

I started relaxing. These people had my back.

“Who here can tell me what the Anorexic Party wants to achieve?”

“I can,” said Ayn Rand.

“Please proceed, madam.”

“They wish for veto power over all existence but they have only the power to destroy that we, ourselves, give them.”

“Then you are critical of the Lord’s decision to enable the election Lucifer demanded?”

“I wouldn’t presume,” she said, with her Russian accent coming back for a moment. “In this last life I searched for a real John Galt, a man smarter and more determined than I was to win all that was good from the world. I had a lot of dreams, but I never dreamt that I would meet him in another world after I died. If God is offering them something they want, I must assume it is the cheese in a mouse trap.”

“Is there anyone in the opposition camp smart enough to see that also?” I asked the table.

“Satan is quite clever enough for that,” said C.S. Lewis. “I think Alexander—excuse me, sir—I mean General Patton, will agree with me that Satan is a strategic genius.”

“Perhaps,” I said, “but we’ve read her book, haven’t we, General?”

That got me a laugh, with Patton laughing the loudest. He was most famous for having outmaneuvered the German general, Rommel, in World War Two, because Patton had read Rommel’s own book on tank warfare.

“But you don’t win wars mainly with strategy,” said Patton. “You win them with logistics, and more importantly, by putting men with guts into the field.”

“You’re politely suggesting to me, General, “that I should be concentrating on the question of who our candidate is going to be?”

“I’ve never been accused of being polite before, sir, but yes.”

Patton had gotten the second laugh.

“I’m actually going in that direction, General,” I said. “To know the right candidate, I need to know what to expect.”

“You can expect mass disruptions,” said Golda Meir. “Terrorism. Riots. Fires. Earthquakes. Volcanic eruptions. Every sort of destructive storm.”

“And,” added H.L. Mencken, “the biggest religious revival in human history.”

“I can understand the spitefulness that would lead to random destruction,” I said, “but I’m afraid you’ve lost me why Satan would want a religious revival. I thought that plays right into our strengths?”

“You can’t underestimate the subtlety of Satan’s planning,” said the Sufi master, Sa’di of Shiraz.

“You must look at the Luciferian strategy from the standpoint of games theory,” said Ludwig von Mises.

“The children of earth no longer routinely think of God, or of Satan, as real,” said C.S. Lewis. “For most people religion is a ritual, or a social occasion, or a safe haven for their children. It is only in fear or grief, confronting mortality and the beyond that has been hidden from them, that they pay any serious mind to their hopes that the old stories are true and that there is the hope of salvation for them.”

“Look at what holiday gains more prominence every year,” said Mark Twain. “Is it Christmas? No, that has become a shopping expedition—no offense to you, Mr. Polo.”

“None taken.”

“Nor,” continued Lewis, “is it Easter, the day meant to remind us of the good news.”

“And it’s certainly not my birthday,” said Dr. King with a smile.

“We’re not trying to keep you guessing. We’re talking about Halloween,” said H.L. Mencken.

Ayn Rand said, “Life is a suspense story. What makes it suspenseful is not knowing how it comes out.”

“The biggest mystery,” said Raymond Burr, “the one that has people lying in bed awake at night — is whether or not you die when your body dies. All you know when you’re on Earth is life within your frail body. It is difficult to imagine living without it.”

“The evidence of the senses is not enough to tell you what you really are, said Lewis. “Science tells you that you’re a biochemical reaction trapped in a piece of meat, and when you die, the reaction fizzles and the meat rots. Most of the frightful symbols of death relate to dead bodies in various states of disintegration: skulls, bones, meat lockers, graves, and the paraphernalia of the undertaker. If that isn’t enough, horror stories try to make it worse with three awful ideas: first that this rotting meat is all that’s left of you when you die; second and worse: that after you die you’re a disembodied ghost trapped in post-life impotence; or third and worst: that you’re still conscious inside the rotting meat, and can experience the slow rotting.”

Rand said, “Halloween goblins are promoted by people who wish to frighten us and reap the benefits of that fear.”

“That was the purpose of Satan’s demand for an Interregnum,” said the blonde bombshell who’d previously been the original Queen of the Nile. “To give generations time to forget the world to come.”

“It’s a confidence game and,” said Twain, with a twinkle in his eye, “you’re the mark. If mortal men knew down deep, without doubt, that we were going to continue living once we separate from the flesh — and not forever as ghosts, either — our fear couldn’t be used to stampede us.”

“But,” I asked, “why would Lucifer wish to stampede us into the arms of God?”

“Not into the arms of the Lord,” said Martin Luther King. “The children of earth are told to flock to churches where God may listen … but where the Lord’s voice has been silenced, and his hand stilled. People pray until their lips are dry … and they hear nothing back. The Lord cannot rescue them because his children are held hostage. The enemy is free to say, ‘You see? Do you see? The Lord had the power to save you from this … yet he did nothing. The Lord will do nothing next time. The Lord doesn’t care for you.’”

“So,” I said, thinking aloud, “in order to get people to join in her hatred of God, Lucifer must first get them to believe in God?”

“Just so,” said C.S. Lewis. “But not belief in the God we know to be a loving father, a redeemer, a loving spirit. God is locked outside then we are told he is so indifferent to us that he won’t lift a finger to help us. The victims begin seeing their kidnappers as their only friends. After my time it become known as the Stockholm syndrome.”

“How diabolical,” I said. I turned to Ayn Rand again. “I remember in your writings you always warned about the sanction of the victim.”


“Suppose we remove that sanction?”

“Just how do you suggest that we ‘shrug’?” she asked. “Satan’s only desire is annihilation. She is in favor of starvation already. Going on strike deprives her of nothing she needs and I am unaware of any way to escape from her prison other than winning an election it appears she has already fixed.”

“Suppose we just play defense?” I asked.

“That only delays the inevitable,” said Heinlein. “Ask General Patton about logistics. When an enemy is waging a war of attrition, one’s only hope is to crack through their lines while you still can.”

“Not,” I said, surprising even myself at my boldness, “if left to their own devices the enemy will destroy themselves in time.”

“Satan has set the calendar for these events,” Jefferson reminded me. “Time is not on our side.”

I turned to Mencken-Franklin. “As Franklin, you were a diplomat, yes?” I asked. He nodded. “You’ve studied the treaty?”


“Don’t bother looking for loopholes,” said W.C. Fields. “Satan already has all the best lawyers.”

The laughter brought down the tension a bit.

“Well, I’ve read it, too,” I said. “Mr. Franklin—and I am pointedly asking this on the basis of your previous incarnation—does or does not the treaty constrain me as tightly as God himself in performing miracles?”

He morphed into his previous incarnation. “The restriction on miracles applies to each of us as much as it applies to God,” Benjamin Franklin explained.

“And that restriction is, precisely?”

“No miracles above π on the Aquinas Scale at any moment before the election. And none at all afterwards, if we lose.”

“Well, how much of a miracle does that permit us?”

“The phrase ‘π on the Aquinas Scale’ is a term of art,” said Raymond Burr, “referring to a miracle with the power to save one human life.”

I cocked my head at him. “I may not have been a lawyer for a few hundred years, but more recently I played one on TV.”

Everyone laughed again.

“Let’s say that an airplane is about to crash with over one hundred passengers,” explained Franklin. “Since the limitation of π is the value of a single human life, God would be allowed to save only one of the passengers in that crash.”

“And that treaty limitation would equally apply to each of us as well?”

“That is correct.”

“How big a miracle would 10π be?” I asked.

“Strong enough a miracle to save Southern California from the Big One. The Aquinas scale is logarithmic.”

“And if ten of us got into a daisy chain, could we, under the precise terms of the treaty with Satan, produce a miracle the power of 10π on the Aquinas scale?”

There was a stir in the room.

“By Jove,” said Shaw, “I believe he has something.”

“Will you indulge a few of us for a few moments?” Jefferson asked.

I nodded.

Jefferson, Franklin, and Burr huddled for about two minutes, then returned to their seats.

The U.S. president formerly known as Solomon said, “I believe the treaty could reasonably and justly be interpreted as permitting that.”

“That’s good enough legal counsel for me,” I said. “Ladies and gentlemen, the greater part of our task is now clear. We play defense. We calm the earth’s tectonic plates, cool volcanoes, untwist twisters, and keep thugs with box cutters away from dangerous assets. With no mass misery to make political hay out of, the Anorexic Party will be unable to turn victims into voters.”

“But who will be our standard bearer in the election?” Patton asked. “Who is the gubernatorial candidate for the Party of God?”

“Nobody,” I said.



I could see Heinlein, Mencken, Twain, and Fields smiling. They’d already got it.

“You can’t be serious,” Golda Meir said.

“Look,” I asked, “what was it God said? ‘Resist not evil.’ I’ve never been a pacifist. I’d love a good conventional war with these bozos. But think about it. They have nothing of their own as a platform, other than denial of pleasure, denial of creativity, denial of their own nature. They want to make God look indifferent to suffering while they make a big show out of looking compassionate. But they can only do that if we give them a target to shoot at.

“I say we give the Anorexics the very absence they wish from us, and give it to them now. We use our powers to stop their attacks on earth but that’s all we do. We decline all debates. We don’t campaign. We never even admit that God or Heaven exists or that there even exists a Party of God. Let people have the nightmares they’ll give them then wake up and thank God it wasn’t real.

“We don’t have to win this election in order for the Interregnum to end and for the tunnels to the Celestial Palace to be opened up again. We simply have to let the Anorexic Party’s candidate be rejected by the people of earth. Deprived of victims, they are out of business and free to look only to each other for the nothingness they have so richly earned.

“I will inform the Anorexic Party that we consent to their first proposed date for the election but that we will be assigning our ballot line to None of the Above. We reserve the right to edit out any untruthful, inaccurate or unbalanced statement they wish to make within their dream campaign, but we will make no arguments of our own.

“Under the terms of the treaty, any vote total less than fifty percent plus one fails the majority test necessary to rule the earth and earth will remain under the self rule of its people with one crucial difference: God’s muzzle will be off for good.

“Upon the end of the Interregnum, we reveal ourselves. The tunnels to New Heaven will be open for two-way traffic. The Tree of Knowledge will be accessible through the Internet or from any public library. People on earth will be able to pray to God for any miracle they want with the rational expectation of benevolent response. And guided tours to visit New Heaven, using their astral bodies, will be available to any living human, death no longer a precondition of entry.

“Nobody is our candidate. Nobody in this election can be trusted with your future. Nobody on the ballot will keep his campaign promises. Vote for Nobody.”

Sixteen of the greatest people in history rose to their feet and cheered me, this time with more than formal courtesy.

I was getting the idea that God knew me a whole lot better than I did.


Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter XVI.

Escape from Heaven is
Copyright © 2002 J. Neil Schulman &
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust.
All rights reserved.

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